By Jaimi Erickson
Eastern North Carolina is one of my favorite locations on the planet! My family has been stationed in the area twice now. Each time I live here, I find more hidden gems. With three major military bases in the area, I asked my fellow military spouses to share their secret loves around Camp Lejeune. Combined with events and activities that my family loves, these are must-see places and unique businesses you will want to check out.
Hammocks Beach State Park
This free park and visitor center provides indoor and outdoor activities. The visitor center features in-depth displays about the natural habitats and species in Eastern NC. Outdoors, you have two options. There is a hiking trail perfect for kids of all ages. You can also catch the ferry (for a fee) to Bear Island for a day at the beach.
Cedar Point Tideland Trail
The essence of Eastern North Carolina can be enjoyed on this trail. Perfect for kids and adults, you will see cranes, fish, lowlands, forest and birds. We have walked this trail with friends and with family. Everyone enjoys it each time we visit. It is a little bit hidden from the main road, but worth the time to explore.
Carolina Home and Garden
Follow Carolina Home and Garden on social media, because their events are so fun! Getting plugged in to the community is easy here. Fun craft nights and food events are always happening. It is a beautiful location to check out as a ladies’ night out or for a date night.
Beaufort Maritime Museum
This museum is so accessible for kids of all ages. Adults love the history shared. Kids will love the artifacts. Learn all about the pirates that called Eastern NC home during their travels. If you homeschool, a visit to this museum may count as a school day due to the packed content. There is a fun, free kids’ scavenger hunt that is a must-do.
This family-owned and run winery in Richlands gives you a taste of the farm and vineyards. Catch one of their food truck events, special art nights, or concerts. There is something for everyone! We love this as a date night location. It is kid-friendly for a family night out, too.
Wines & Wares
You will feel like you are in a big city when you see the wine and beer selection at Wines & Wares. A cute little shop just outside Camp Lejeune, it is worth the stop. They will even search for your favorite wine if you have trouble finding it in the community.
The Grazing Tray
I love seeing the little downtown outside of base coming back to life. One of the best new additions in downtown Jacksonville is just minutes from Camp Lejeune. The Grazing Tray is a charcuterie-inspired café in the heart of old downtown. It is a kid-friendly place to grab breakfast or lunch with friends. Take an easy walk to the river after for the beautiful views, too.
Rustic Barn at Half Moon
You have to drive through the holiday lights event at The Rustic Barn! It is worth the wait to get in and experience. Throughout the year, there are special events at this cute location. They are known as a prime wedding and event spot, but offer so much more.
If equestrian fun is on your list, check out this family-run horseback riding farm. SilverBit stables offers riding lessons for kids and adults. They also have fun events planned for kids and families.
Jacksonville Performing Arts
For a taste of the theater in the little town outside Camp Lejeune, look to JPA for some great opportunities! I took my girls to a performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was such a fun and accessible place. They offer camps and theater classes, and the shows are all open to the public with admission.
Sempre Piano Studio
High-quality music education and concerts in small-town Jacksonville is quite a find! Sempre Piano Studio provides top-notch piano lessons for kids and adults. Their concerts are open to the public as well. Catch an outdoor casual concert at the local Milk Road coffee shop or one of their formal concerts in the local high school auditorium. Take lessons, join one of the summer music camps, or plug into their upcoming events to catch a great piano concert with youth and adult performers.
Bynum Family Farm
Farm-raised meat and produce is what Bynum Family Farm offers. Frequently during the school year, you will want to catch one of their farm days. We attended one of the homeschool farm days and it was a treat. The kids were able to get hands on with botany, farm animals, and even pick strawberries in the spring. The farm is run by a veteran and his wife too making it even more special.
For some country and bluegrass entertainment, go to Walton’s during their distillery sessions concert series. They open up their distillery for tours and tastings. Plus, they have live music and free food. You can’t get more east NC than this. Walton’s Distillery is a casual, fun, family-owned business that makes a great stop for a date day or group social event.
Neuseway Nature Park and Planetarium
Just an hour away from Camp Lejeune, the Neuseway Nature Park, Science Center and Planetarium is truly a hidden gem! They have a fully hands-on science museum, walk-through animal exhibits, an incredible park with picnic shelters, and a planetarium. This is all in one location in Kinston, NC! They offer birthday parties and open, free play time as well. It is worth the drive for a fun, day-trip.
CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center
Thick in history, the CSS Neuse Center does a great job of combining information for adults and hands-on exhibits for kids. It does not take all day to walk through. The museum is loaded with exhibits sharing Eastern NC’s role in American history.
Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center
Not too far from Camp Lejeune, the Turtle Rescue Center is a great family field trip spot. Watch sea turtles up close and learn about what the Topsail area is doing to help this species thrive. The docents do an excellent job of teaching all about sea turtles. The center is a great stop before you hit the beach on Topsail Island.
More Fun Near Camp Lejeune
This collection of secret loves for those stationed around Camp Lejeune can be a bucket list to use during your time in the area. For even more special activities to do with your family check out this list of free activities in the Eastern NC area. There is so much to love in Eastern North Carolina near Camp Lejeune!
SpouseLink is on Location at Camp Lejeune
Meet SpouseLink Ambassador Tara
She’s represented us at MacDill AFB in Tampa, FL, as well as Camp Lejeune, NC. Connect with her for more insights about the areas where she’s lived.
Meet SpouseLink Ambassador Jessica
Jessica was our first internationally based Ambassador, representing us at USAG Stuttgart, Germany. She is now located at Camp Lejeune. Connect with her to find out more about either area.
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